I often hear stories about attacks taking place outside Chinese takeaways, sometimes of a racial nature, other times because of the person being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I remember one evening being spooked by a Crimewatch report of a Chinese teenager from Northern Ireland who was murdered outside his takeaway as he took the rubbish out. The only thing you think really is “thank goodness that doesn’t happen here”.
Last Christmas my aunt, uncle and baby cousin came over from Singapore. My aunt was born in the UK and moved to find work in Hong Kong whilst the UK was having their recession and then eventually found herself in Singapore, where she met my uncle and they later had a baby.
My aunt like me also worked in the takeaway, but unlike me she started a lot younger, she could barely reach the counter but was taking orders past midnight from bigger men who had just come from the pub. In a lot of ways I suppose that lead to my aunt being quite tough in the workplace.
We’d often get stories from my aunt about what it was like when she worked there, how insanely busy it was, how they used to spend Christmas watching the TV in the kitchen, and the occasional police scare. It was then I realised that I never got these kinds of stories from my dad.
Whenever my aunt comes over we will bring back a pancake roll, chips and curry sauce for her, and she would get very excited, after all this was the food of her childhood.
One evening after work and she asked me how was the evening and I would tell her about the day, were there any difficult customers and so on. She then told me a long time ago, just as they were closing shop they were attacked.
My dad and my uncle got into a brawl outside the takeaway with a group of thugs who had dragged my grandfather out onto the street. My grandfather was wiping the counter at the time getting ready to close shop and out of nowhere these thugs came and hauled him out.
My grandmother told her two daughters – my two aunts – to hide upstairs. She stayed in the kitchen and began the to bang the meat cleaver on the table and making a lot of noise in the kitchen hoping that it would scare the thugs away. My aunt recalled peering through the windows and shaking as she watched the whole thing from upstairs.
She didn’t tell me if they were a regular occurence, although I imagine that they did happen from time to time if they weren’t frequent.
Of course times have changed; drunken brawls haven’t happened since I started working there. Back then there used to be three pubs quite close to each other, now two of those pubs have been closed down and built over.
Whilst I am quite lucky, it made me realise there was a lot about the takeaway I never really asked about, mainly because my dad or nan hardly ever talked about it.